Targeting America, 10 years later
The man who…
The monster who brought horror to our shores is, at long last, dead. His body is decomposing somewhere in the North Arabian Sea. Which means that—unless he stashed away one last videotape, just in case—we won’t have to listen to Osama bin Laden gloating on the 10th anniversary of his murderous deeds.
That’s good news, and worth a moment’s thankfulness.
And for bad news, there’s this: Some of what bin Laden said on his earlier tapes is still distressingly on target—and in ways even he couldn’t have imagined.
Consider, in particular, the bin Laden tape from autumn of 2004. It was the first video message he’d put out in nearly three years, and it’s the one where he said that his goal was to bleed the United States to death—economically. To make us spend so much of our national treasure trying to chase him down, trying to defeat him, that we’d eventually collapse into bankruptcy.
Nor was it especially difficult, he boasted back then, to keep us on the hunt.
“All that we have to do,” he said, “is to send two mujahedeen to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written ‘al-Qaida’ in order to make generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic and political losses without their achieving anything of note other than some benefits for their private corporations.”
Now, by 2004, you’ll recall, we were already running into trouble in Iraq. Iraq was the extra war—the unnecessary war—on top of the war in Afghanistan. Iraq was the war justified in part, if never actually motivated, by some vague hint of connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida and Sept. 11.
A “piece of cloth.”
By 2004, you’ll recall, we were spending billions of dollars every week on our two wars, all of it borrowed money. All of it on the national credit card.
And we’d cut taxes. Again.
It’s hard to have a strong economy when you’re that deep in debt; bin Laden was on to something. And since 2004? Our unpaid bills have only piled up. We’re talking trillions now.
But here’s the part Osama bin Laden couldn’t have predicted: He couldn’t have predicted that politicians of a certain stripe—politicians right here in America—would use that enormous debt as an excuse to weaken us even further. To dismantle programs they’d never liked to begin with. To shrink the government, in the famous phrase, until it was small enough to drown it in the bathtub.
Cutting back on education, and scientific research—the kinds of things that grow an economy. Cutting back on maintaining our roads and rails and bridges and ports—the kinds of things that support an economy. Cutting back on protecting investors, and protecting consumers—the kinds of things that build confidence in an economy.
And eventually—inevitably?—the threat of default unless they got their way. They were willing to crash the economy.
Ideology was their engine, but the debt gave them their opening, their cover story.
Remember: This was no foreign force causing us such harm—these were Americans. American leaders. We’re doing all this to ourselves! Not in his wildest dreams could Osama bin Laden have counted on this much help.
Ten years after 9/11, the monster is gone.
But the terrorists are winning.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.